This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

A portly man sits in a gilded chair atop a dais. His hands are folded over his long red tie which cascades down his belly like a bloody waterfall. One hand lifts to cover a yawn, then descends below its partner to scratch a deep red, neglected rash on the underside of his belly, the part that hides the zipper of his navy blue suit pants. He makes a mental note to to ask his assistant to make an appointment with his doctor only to toss it away to make room for the delicious cut of beef and the pungent cigar his favorite lobbyist had given him. He longed to be free of this drudgery and enjoy them with him. And his family, of course.

He clears his throat and looks around and straightens his back. A thumping, beating sound, the type of sound you feel more than hear, vibrates through his ribcage. He coughs on the loosened tar. A draft tickles his fine hairs and sends a chill down his spine. He leans to his side and asks his aide to close the window. The sound deadens as a quieter, almost timid one finds its way back to his ear.

A hunched and sweaty man read breathlessly from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle to the chamber of bored and aggravated senators as the glassy stare of the portly man bore into him. Between every word the chants from outside would rattle the windows, rattle his chest. The horrible sound of glass shattering. The image of his daughter’s mangled body on the hospital bed, only 26. He trips over the next word and his legs are about to give. He reads on even though his daughters matted hair and the tubes from her mouth bleed into every silent space.

The windows continue to rattle. His mind wanders out of the chamber, past his daughter’s dreary hospital room, through the rattling old windows to the mass of protesters outside beating their voices against the capital building’s walls like would-be trumpets at Jericho. He was with them, no, more than that he was them. He stood there holding a heavy poster-board in one hand and his daughter in the other, he chanted with them for the powers that be to do the right thing.

So long ago.

Long before he became a senator. Before the complications and attacks on his integrity. Before the piles of gifts, ignored, and the expensive dinners, politely enjoyed. Before the car crash, before the promised check. Before he stood up from his seat, book in hand, to stand up for the wrong thing. Before long it became too much.

“Alright, alright,” the portly man booms from his dais, waving his hand dismissively in the way a father would dismiss a child from an arduous punishment. The hunched and defeated father slumps into his chair mid-sentence as the other continues. “That’s enough, senator, that’s enough. We’ll table this issue for another time. And really, I never expected this from you who seemed to like the idea of ‘free’ healthcare.”

“It isn’t free if the taxpayers have alre-“

“Now, I said that’s enough.” He repeats in the same fatherly tone. “You made your point quite clear that you didn’t want the vote to go through today, and I think we’d all like to go home to our families.”

“Of course.”

As they descend the steps of the capital building to the deafening singular voice of the protestors chanting “do your job” the portly man adjusts his suit and lifts his head high. He wraps his heavy arm around the slouched shoulders of the tired and worried father slipping a check into his coat pocket and whispering, “you did the right thing.”

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